January 08, 2001, 1:40 PM — Lod, Israel -- Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd. (IAI) takes security seriously. Its headquarters, set behind high chain-link fences topped with razor wire, is patrolled by a private army of Uzi-toting guards.
With more than $2 billion in revenue and 14,600 employees, IAI is Israel's largest company. Despite being run by the fractious and socialist-leaning Israeli government, the company is charged with making a profit each year. That puts pressure on IAI to develop products and services that will appeal to organizations outside the nation's borders. As a result, the company exports goods to more than 90 countries, and exports represented 80% of its sales in 2000.
But for MAMAN, as IAI's IT department is known, the obsession with protecting corporate assets makes it much more burdensome to look outside its base of government customers to improve commercial relations.
"The fundamental and inherent interest of our company is the well-being and security of Israel," said Yoram Holtzberg, deputy general manager of MAMAN. And given the political realities of the region, that makes security uppermost in IT managers' minds as they embark on new programs, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and outsourcing.
A Competitive Edge
MAMAN's staff of 240 supports four business divisions with more than 10,000 end users. Each division has a variety of profit centers, and MAMAN must offer competitive IT support because it charges back its services to business units within the divisions, which have the option of seeking outside IT services to hold down their own costs.
"We have to sell ourselves," Holtzberg said. "Nothing is guaranteed."
MAMAN must help IAI stay competitive enough to attract and satisfy demanding customers, Holtzberg said. So, he explained, when customer calls were left unanswered due to Sabbath restrictions, an IT problem unique to Israel, MAMAN had to be prepared to make changes.
According to Vivian Meyerowitz, the company's CRM project manager, "There are a lot of religious people at IAI. Giving customers online access to information became important because phone calls went unanswered [on the Sabbath]."
Introducing a CRM program wasn't as easy as it might be in most companies, however.
When the avionics division cuts a deal to upgrade, say, Turkish or Chilean jets, those customers expect to get access to information about the status of work. To permit outside access, Yosef Yakovich, IAI's manager of communication systems and networks, had to design a parallel network running a variety of applications on servers that run Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP-UX or IBM's AIX.